Everest pioneer improves quality of life in Vail | VailDaily.com

Everest pioneer improves quality of life in Vail

Dick Hauserman
Daily file photoDick Pownall on the porch of his original cabin on Forest Road in 1963.

He built a small log home on Forest Road – quite an accomplishment for the schoolteacher from Denver. He and his wife Mary moved permanently to Vail in 1982. At that time, the original log cabin was rebuilt into their ideal home.

Vail has always been proud of Dick Pownall. His mountain-climbing feats to many of the highest peaks are phenomenal, culminating in 1962, when he was part of the first American expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. For several years during the summers, Dick ran a climbing school in Pitkin Creek in East Vail.

Looking back, Dick must feel a great deal of satisfaction for being an outstanding Vailite who contributed to the quality of life in the mountains.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

During the third summer, the largest and most influential architectural firm in the country, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, held its general partnership meeting in Vail. It was their first such meeting outside the big cities of New York and Chicago. For Vail it was quite a coup.

“At that meeting we created the method of running an architectural practice that was used for years throughout the industry,” said David Hughes, one of the general partners. “There were about eight or 10 involved in the meeting. A beautiful, secluded, quiet area in the pines overlooking the Gore Range was prepared near the top of the gondola at Mid-Vail. Tables and chairs were set up and the weather was ideal. They said it was one of the most inspirational and enjoyable meetings they ever had. For three days they carried on their business but found time for relaxing, hiking and fishing at secluded Marma Lake. The fish were plentiful, and enough were packed in dry ice to be eaten at their favorite restaurant, Brussels, on Park Avenue in New York, the day after they arrived home.

Their chief designer, Gordon Bunshaf, who designed the first of the post-war glass skyscrapers, the Lever House, said, “Oh, the mountains are nice, but I’m a city boy – I like New York.”

So, as beautiful as the mountains might be, there are some who are dyed-in-the-wool, bow-tie, city dwellers.

A year or so after the Vail meeting, Dave Hughes had a commission to design a resort on the north coast of Tunisia – the southern shores of Europe on the Mediterranean are at the same latitude as Washington, D.C. – so there are no sunny beaches in the winter.

Having seen what Vail did in creating a resort from scratch, Hughes asked me to send documents about Vail. He felt that it was the most successful resort of its time. Due to political problems regarding land acquisition, the tourism project never got off the ground.

Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 135th installment, an excerpt from chapter 15, “The Rich and the Famous.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.

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